Swollen Eyelids: What Causes Them and How to Treat Them

a white woman with half of her face in the frame squeezes her eye shut due to having one swollen eye in the morning

Swollen eyelids can be uncomfortable, painful, and can impact your confidence. They can make it hard to focus your vision or see, creating stress during everyday activities. You need to know what’s causing your swollen eyelids so you can get treatment and see comfortably again.

caucasian man with an upper eyelid infection standing outside on a sunny day

Swollen eyelids can have a number of causes from pink eye to traumatic injuries. While you may be able to identify their cause, your Knoxville eye doctor is best equipped to diagnose what’s causing them. Once the cause is determined, they will be able to provide treatment. This can include at-home treatments or prescribed antibiotics depending on the cause.

What Causes Swollen Eyelids?

Swollen eyelids can occur for a number of reasons such as allergic infections or injury. However, you’ll need to see your eye doctor to determine the actual cause of the swelling. They will be able to diagnose the problem and provide the treatment you need to see clearly, protect the health of your eye, and help prevent it from happening again.


Allergic reactions occur when your immune system is trying to protect your body from foreign elements, or allergens. While this helps prevent you from getting sick or your condition from getting worse, it can also leave you with eyelids that are swollen as well as red, itchy, and sore. Swelling can be especially dramatic due to the skin of your eyelids being more elastic than other parts of your body.

Click here to learn the difference between allergies and dry eye syndrome!


Inflammation of the eyelids is known as blepharitis. It’s usually caused by the oil gland of the eye getting clogged, resulting in swelling along with other signs of irritation. Blepharitis can be a symptom of different eye conditions and diseases rather than a stand-alone problem. Fortunately, it’s not contagious and won’t do any permanent damage to your vision. 

To learn how reconstructive eye surgery can help with eyelid inflammation, click here!


Eyelid swelling is a common symptom of a bacterial or viral infection of the eyelid. These infections come in a variety of forms such as:

Bacteria and viruses can enter through broken skin, so cleaning wounds is important for protecting your eye and overall health. Insect bites are another common way for infections to occur. Skin conditions such as chickenpox, shingles, and eczema can also affect the eyelids through infection.

Click here to learn about the 5 types of eye infections that you should be aware of!


Styes are a common eye problem that leads to eye swelling and soreness. They start out as a small infection at the base of the eyelash that causes the edge of the eyelid to become swollen and red. They have the appearance of a pimple filled with pus, but the infection and inflammation actually go further back resulting in the entire eyelid becoming swollen and sore.

For 3 tips to get rid of a stye, click here!


Similar to blepharitis, a chalazion occurs when an oil gland in the eyelid is blocked creating a lump. This causes fluid retention and a cyst (meibomian cyst) to form, as well as swelling and soreness. They usually develop on the inside of the upper eyelid but can also develop on the lower eyelid. A chalazion can be painful in the beginning but stop hurting over time.

Click here to learn how to treat a swollen eyelid!

Pink Eye 

Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is the result of the membrane that covers your eye (conjunctiva) becoming inflamed. This can be due to allergies, an infection, or even eye makeup coming into contact with the eye. Redness is often the most common symptom of pink eye. However, swelling, soreness, increased tear production, and even eye discharge can occur.

To learn why pink eye is more common during cold and flu season, click here!


Swelling is common after an eye injury. When injured, bleeding occurs in the small blood vessels under the skin that surrounds your eye. There usually isn’t much need to worry, but more serious injuries may cause the thin bones that surround the eye to fracture. Any vision change after an eye injury needs to be quickly evaluated. Talk to your Knoxville eye doctor if you suspect you’ve had a serious eye injury for proper treatment. 

I Have a Swollen Eyelid. What Do I Do?

close-up of a caucasian woman with closed swollen eyelids

Treatments for swollen eyelids will vary depending on what’s causing them. For example, pink eye can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection. In cases of viral infection, simply cleaning the affected eyelid with warm water and a clean cotton towel is enough until the viral infection clears up on its own. Bacterial conjunctivitis, on the other hand, may require antibiotics.

The treatment is similar for styes and chalazions. Applying a warm compress to the affected area helps promote oil secretion and removal of the blockage. Repeat this three to five times a day for the best results. Your Baptist Eye Surgeon ophthalmologist may recommend eye drops or other treatments in some situations. Draining may become necessary if it lingers for too long.

Swollen eyelids may go away on their own naturally with at-home treatment. However, your eye doctor will be able to correctly diagnose and provide proper treatment, including antibiotics if necessary. See your eye doctor if swelling and other symptoms don’t improve after one week or if your symptoms get worse.

As with any treatment, the time it takes your swollen eyelid to heal can vary depending on the cause. This means that it can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks for your eyelid to return to normal. Following your ophthalmologist’s instructions is the best way to ensure that you heal quickly and are able to see comfortably as soon as possible.

Are you suffering from swollen eyelids and need treatment? Contact us today to schedule your appointment!

From injuries to pink eye, swollen eyelids can have a variety of causes. Although you may be able to guess the cause, your East Tennessee eye doctor is your best bet for a correct diagnosis. After diagnosing the cause of your swollen eyelids, they can provide the treatment you need so that you can see comfortably. This may come in the form of at-home treatments or antibiotics.

Baptist Eye Surgeons is an ophthalmological practice in Knoxville, TN, and Morristown, TN. Give us a call at 865-579-3920 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

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